The Retail Revolution underway

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 3rd August 2011


As a keen observer of social and regulatory change, it has not escaped me or many of our readers that a revolution is occurring in the ways that business is being conducted. New usages of the internet, social media and smartphone technology are the impetus for a huge structural shift in the economy. The ways products are sold and changing consumer spending patterns are being increasingly shaped by the use of these technologies.

Changes in the use of technology and consumer spending patterns are also placing the reins of business into the hands of a new generation of business leaders and innovators. Generation X’s and Generation Y’s are taking control, whether of their own initiative or through recruitment or promotion. They have a good understanding of the new retail environment, and the potential of the various new technologies at their disposal.

Growth in social media and geo-marketing

The increasing up-take of social media sites such as Twitter and FourSquare are evidence of how retailers and food manufacturers can exploit the potential of social media as a key avenue for marketing and promotion.

For example, a proliferation of recent newspaper articles has been reporting the location-based social media site Foursquare. It allows its users to “check in” and “check out” of locations, restaurants and venues using the GPS function on their smartphones, and to see if any of their friends are also checked into a location nearby.

This location-specific application or similar social media applications are allowing retailers to offer their customers location-specific deals when they “check in” to a particular store or venue. This has been an effective method for retailers to market their products and services to their young, tech-savvy clientele. Mobile phone communications can direct customers to the point of sale with instant alerts to available deals or discounts in stores nearby.  

Food businesses have been leading the charge in capitalising on this trend. In Australia, restaurant chains such as Nando’s, Grill’d or Wagamama have been using Foursquare to offer their customers geo-targeted two-for-1 deals, discounts or free meals.

Coca-Cola also ran a Foursquare ‘Coke Machine Fairy’ promotion in Sydney last year. Foursquare users were alerted to special prizes hidden in nearby vending machines which they could claim. Coca-Cola was gaining a recognised following on social media through this geo-marketing campaign, with the Machine Fairy deal scoring close to 1 million impressions and 1200 mentions on Twitter.

Other popular social media sites such as Facebook have been developing similar location-based services, such as Facebook Places, and geo-marketing is expected to become even more prevalent. The technology will become more targeted to specific groups within specific locations as demographic and database refinements can be made.

Internet coupon retailing boom

Internet coupon websites are also becoming increasingly popular with tech-savvy consumers, with a whole host of coupon businesses emerging, such as Groupon, Cudo, Spreets and Living Social.

In the US, Unilever recently announced on 28 July 2011 that it has teamed up with the popular coupon website Groupon to offer daily deals to the site’s visitors, such as a 40% discount when they buy $15 worth of Ben & Jerry’s, Popsicle, Good Humour, Breyers and Klondike products via Groupon.

Likewise, in the past fortnight, Foursquare has announced a whole host of alliances with internet coupon sites such as Living Social and Gilt Groupe that will soon bring a synergy of geo-marketing and coupon retail to Australian shores.